Thursday 21 November 2013

Teacher Gurruwun (Yalmay) Yunupingu, who has long campaigned for Yolgnu children to have a bilingual education, is one of four finalists for the 2013 Human Rights Medal, the Australian Human Rights Commission announced today.

Also shortlisted is Richard Frankland, a Gunditjmara man who is also a musician, screenwriter, director and trainer. Mr Frankland has embraced issues such as lateral violence and cultural safety in his work as a trainer and community-builder.

Pastor Graham Long from The Wayside Chapel is the third finalist for the Human Rights Medal. He has led Wayside since 2004 and has successfully introduced programs that reach out to Indigenous Australians, young people, and people experiencing mental illness.

Sister Clare Condon, who leads the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, completes the shortlist for the 2013 Human Rights Medal.  Sister Clare has spent forty years supporting those most in need, with a particular focus on women and children.

Previous Medal winners have included Therese Rein, Elizabeth Evatt, the Rt Hon. Malcolm Fraser and last year’s winner Ian Thorpe.  Ian will present the Human Rights Medal on 10 December at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.

“The annual Human Rights Awards celebrate individuals, businesses and community organisations across Australia who have advanced human rights during the year,” said Commission President, Professor Gillian Triggs (pictured).

“The Human Rights Medal finalists announced today have dedicated their lives to advancing and protecting the human rights of children and young people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and individuals who experience mental illness, homelessness or domestic violence.

“These finalists are great Australians and quiet achievers,” Professor Triggs said.

There are 10 Human Rights Award categories, including the Young Person’s Human Right Medal, the Law Award, the Business Award, the Community Organisation Award, and the Community Individual Award.

Non-fiction literature, print and online media, TV, and radio are also recognised for their contributions to human rights through investigative reporting and powerful storytelling.

Tickets are available now for the 2013 Human Rights Awards, hosted by MC Craig Reucassel from The Chaser. More details at

Additional information about the finalists for the Human Rights Medal:

Gurruwun (Yalmay) Yunupingu

Gurruwun (Yalmay) Yunupingu is a Yolgnu woman from the Rirratjingu clan who has worked by the side of her husband, Dr Yunupingu, but has also forged her own path fighting for the rights of Yolgnu children to have a bilingual education and to establish the ‘two-way learning’ philosophy at the Yirrkala Community Education Centre. Gurruwun (Yalmay) Yunupingu was one of the first Indigenous people from her community to fully qualify as a teacher. She is an inspiring educator and leader who speaks 16 languages in addition to English and Rirratjingu. The Federal Parliamentary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affair Committee’s recent inquiry into Indigenous youth in the criminal justice system emphasised the importance of language as a way to connect Indigenous youth to culture and to strengthen intergenerational relationships. These findings are consistent with Gurruwun (Yalmay) Yunupingu’s approach. She calls herself a “Yesterday’s Leader”, aware that only by knowing and engaging with the past, through living culture and language, can there be a real conversation with the future.

Graham Long, Pastor, The Wayside Chapel

Graham Long has been pastor of The Wayside Chapel since 2004 and has implemented a number of programs that reach out to Indigenous Australians, young people, and people experiencing mental illness. “At the Wayside, we tell people they are not ‘problems’ to be solved but rather ‘people’ to be met. We know we have had a good day is someone walks out our front door feeling ‘met’ rather than ‘worked on’,” says Pastor Long. The Wayside’s Aboriginal Project provides culturally sensitive support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and creates opportunities for leadership and mentoring. The Wayside’s Day to Day Living Program teaches social skills to people experiencing long-term and persistent mental health issues. The Wayside Youth Project supports young people at risk, offering a drop-in service and opportunities to learn living skills. The fourth program Pastor Long has implemented at Wayside is the Community Development Project, which creates opportunities for all members of the community to come together for activities that help reduce social isolation and promote togetherness.

Sister Clare Condon

Sister Clare Condon is the Congregational Leader of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan of the Order of St Benedict. Sister Clare has been with the Sisters of the Good Samaritan for about 40 years. Under her leadership, the Sisters of the Good Samaritan have helped provide emergency housing for women and children experiencing domestic violence and have strongly supported self-determination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Near Alice Springs, the Sisters work and live at Santa Teresa (Ltyentye Apurte), which is home to about 600 Aboriginal people.  The Sisters work with local women on an Aboriginal painting and silk venture.  This provides some income for the women and according to the local health centre makes a “significant contribution to the health, mental and emotional well-being of people in the community”. Sister Clare’s ability to make a difference is underpinned by her capacity to keep her eye on the big picture. She is never afraid to take her message directly to Government, relentlessly lobbying politicians to help those in need.

Richard Frankland

Richard Frankland is a Gunditjmara man who has worked as a soldier, musician, author, screenwriter, director and trainer. His training and community-building work has embraced Indigenous issues such as lateral violence, cultural safety, healing, and family. In the late 1980s he co-founded Songlines Aboriginal Music Corporation and he served on the board of that organisation for over ten years. He was also instrumental in forming Defenders of Native Title, which later became Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation. In 1999, inspired by a family member, Harry Saunders, who lost his life of the Kokoda Trail, Richard wrote and directed Harry’s War, a ground-breaking film about Indigenous contributions to Australia’s theatres of war. Richard also wrote and directed the award-winning No Way To Forget, which became the first film by an Indigenous director to win an Australian Film Institute award. In 2011, Richard worked with a handful of Indigenous elders to create the 1000 Warrior Walk through Melbourne. The march empowers participants to reclaim themselves as men in the eyes of their tribes and families. “We are not a problem people,” he says, “we are people with a problem and that problem was colonisation.”

Details of finalists for all of the 2013 Human Rights Awards are online.